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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene IV.

The Life and Death of King John

The Same.The French King’s Tent.

Enter KING PHILIP, LEWIS, PANDULPH, and Attendants.

K. Phi.So, by a roaring tempest on the flood,

A whole armado of convicted sail

Is scatter’d and disjoin’d from fellowship.

Pand.Courage and comfort! all shall yet go well.

K. Phi.What can go well when we have run so ill?

Are we not beaten? Is not Angiers lost?

Arthur ta’en prisoner? divers dear friends slain?

And bloody England into England gone,

O’erbearing interruption, spite of France?

Lew.What he hath won that hath he fortified:

So hot a speed with such advice dispos’d,

Such temperate order in so fierce a cause,

Doth want example: who hath read or heard

Of any kindred action like to this?

K. Phi.Well could I bear that England had this praise,

So we could find some pattern of our shame.


Look, who comes here! a grave unto a soul;

Holding the eternal spirit, against her will,

In the vile prison of afflicted breath.

I prithee lady, go away with me.

ConstLo now! now see the issue of your peace.

K. Phi.Patience, good lady! comfort, gentle Constance!

Const.No, I defy all counsel, all redress,

But that which ends all counsel, true redress,

Death, death: O, amiable lovely death!

Thou odoriferous stench! sound rottenness!

Arise forth from the couch of lasting night,

Thou hate and terror to prosperity,

And I will kiss thy detestable bones,

And put my eyeballs in thy vaulty brows,

And ring these fingers with thy household worms,

And stop this gap of breath with fulsome dust,

And be a carrion monster like thyself:

Come, grin on me; and I will think thou smil’st

And buss thee as thy wife! Misery’s love,

O! come to me.

K. Phi.O fair affliction, peace!

Const.No, no, I will not, having breath to cry:

O! that my tongue were in the thunder’s mouth!

Then with a passion would I shake the world,

And rouse from sleep that fell anatomy

Which cannot hear a lady’s feeble voice,

Which scorns a modern invocation.

Pand.Lady, you utter madness, and not sorrow.

Const.Thou art not holy to belie me so;

I am not mad: this hair I tear is mine;

My name is Constance; I was Geffrey’s wife;

Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost!

I am not mad: I would to heaven I were!

For then ’tis like I should forget myself:

O! if I could, what grief should I forget.

Preach some philosophy to make me mad,

And thou shalt be canoniz’d, cardinal;

For being not mad but sensible of grief,

My reasonable part produces reason

How I may be deliver’d of these woes,

And teaches me to kill or hang myself:

If I were mad, I should forget my son,

Or madly think a babe of clouts were he.

I am not mad: too well, too well I feel

The different plague of each calamity.

K. Phi.Bind up those tresses. O! what love I note

In the fair multitude of those her hairs:

Where but by chance a silver drop hath fallen,

Even to that drop ten thousand wiry friends

Do glue themselves in sociable grief;

Like true, inseparable, faithful loves,

Sticking together in calamity.

Const.To England, if you will.

K. Phi.Bind up your hairs.

Const.Yes, that I will; and wherefore will I do it?

I tore them from their bonds, and cried aloud

‘O! that these hands could so redeem my son,

As they have given these hairs their liberty!’

But now I envy at their liberty,

And will again commit them to their bonds,

Because my poor child is a prisoner.

And, father cardinal, I have heard you say

That we shall see and know our friends in heaven.

If that be true, I shall see my boy again;

For since the birth of Cain, the first male child,

To him that did but yesterday suspire,

There was not such a gracious creature born.

But now will canker-sorrow eat my bud

And chase the native beauty from his cheek,

And he will look as hollow as a ghost,

As dim and meagre as an ague’s fit,

And so he’ll die; and, rising so again,

When I shall meet him in the court of heaven

I shall not know him: therefore never, never

Must I behold my pretty Arthur more.

Pand.You hold too heinous a respect of grief.

Const.He talks to me, that never had a son.

K. Phi.You are as fond of grief as of your child.

Const.Grief fills the room up of my absent child,

Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,

Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,

Remembers me of all his gracious parts,

Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form:

Then have I reason to be fond of grief.

Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,

I could give better comfort than you do.

I will not keep this form upon my head

When there is such disorder in my wit.

O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!

My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!

My widow-comfort, and my sorrows’ cure![Exit.

K. Phi.I fear some outrage, and I’ll follow her.[Exit.

Lew.There’s nothing in this world can make me joy:

Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,

Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;

And bitter shame hath spoil’d the sweet world’s taste,

That it yields nought but shame and bitterness.

Pand.Before the curing of a strong disease,

Even in the instant of repair and health,

The fit is strongest: evils that take leave,

On their departure most of all show evil.

What have you lost by losing of this day?

Lew.All days of glory, joy, and happiness.

Pand.If you had won it, certainly you had.

No, no; when Fortune means to men most good,

She looks upon them with a threatening eye,

’Tis strange to think how much King John hath lost

In this which he accounts so clearly won.

Are not you griev’d that Arthur is his prisoner?

Lew.As heartily as he is glad he hath him.

Pand.Your mind is all as youthful as your blood.

Now hear me speak with a prophetic spirit;

For even the breath of what I mean to speak

Shall blow each dust, each straw, each little rub,

Out of the path which shall directly lead

Thy foot to England’s throne; and therefore mark.

John hath seiz’d Arthur; and it cannot be,

That whiles warm life plays in that infant’s veins

The misplac’d John should entertain an hour,

One minute, nay, one quiet breath of rest.

A sceptre snatch’d with an unruly hand

Must be as boisterously maintain’d as gain’d;

And he that stands upon a slippery place

Makes nice of no vile hold to stay him up:

That John may stand, then Arthur needs must fall;

So be it, for it cannot be but so.

Lew.But what shall I gain by young Arthur’s fall?

Pand.You, in the right of Lady Blanch your wife,

May then make all the claim that Arthur did.

Lew.And lose it, life and all, as Arthur did.

Pand.How green you are and fresh in this old world!

John lays you plots; the times conspire with you;

For he that steeps his safety in true blood

Shall find but bloody safety and untrue.

This act so evilly borne shall cool the hearts

Of all his people and freeze up their zeal,

That none so small advantage shall step forth

To check his reign, but they will cherish it;

No natural exhalation in the sky,

No scope of nature, no distemper’d day,

No common wind, no customed event,

But they will pluck away his natural cause

And call them meteors, prodigies, and signs,

Abortives, presages, and tongues of heaven,

Plainly denouncing vengeance upon John.

Lew.May be he will not touch young Arthur’s life,

But hold himself safe in his prisonment.

Pand.O! sir, when he shall hear of your approach,

If that young Arthur be not gone already,

Even at that news he dies; and then the hearts

Of all his people shall revolt from him

And kiss the lips of unacquainted change,

And pick strong matter of revolt and wrath

Out of the bloody fingers’ ends of John.

Methinks I see this hurly all on foot:

And, O! what better matter breeds for you

Than I have nam’d. The bastard Faulconbridge

Is now in England ransacking the church,

Offending charity: if but a dozen French

Were there in arms, they would be as a call

To train ten thousand English to their side;

Or as a little snow, tumbled about,

Anon becomes a mountain. O noble Dauphin!

Go with me to the king. ’Tis wonderful

What may be wrought out of their discontent

Now that their souls are topful of offence.

For England go; I will whet on the king.

Lew.Strong reasons make strong actions. Let us go:

If you say ay, the king will not say no.[Exeunt.